Violinist Patricia Travers, 1928-2010

February 15, 2010 at 11:33 PM ·

A reporter called me because he was trying to find information on the violinist Patricia Travers, who was born in 1928 and died this Feb. 9. Apparently she was a child prodigy who was quite famous in the 1940s and even made an appearance in the movie "There's Magic in Music." She also played and owned the Tom Taylor Strad, which is also the instrument that Josh Bell played on for so many years before he bought his own.

Here is what a Youtube video (embedded below) said:

"Patricia Travers was born in Clifton, New Jersey, the daughter of a well-to-do family. Her father, a successful attorney, was also an amateur violin maker, and he gave Patricia a 1/4 size violin on her third birthday. She was a quick study, and at age six, she gave her first concert. She became well-known locally, and her success earned her an appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 - at the age of nine. Her success spread nationwide after that, and it earned her several concert appearances.

In 1940, Paramount signed her to appear in the film "There's Magic in Music." The film itself achieved modest results, but it showcased her talents for millions to see and served as a springboard for her career. Travers was originally signed to simply perform a violin work (an arrangement of Anton Rubinstein's Romance in E flat), but the director found out that she was also a good actress, and her deadpan wisecracking upstaged even the established adults. As a result, she won acclaim from even the toughest critics.

Good actress or not, Travers was first and foremost a violinist, and her family turned down requests to appear in more movies. For the next eleven years, the petite, curly-haired young girl had a full schedule of concert appearances, performing as often as 100 times per year. To ensure that she got a reasonable education, she was accompanied by a private tutor, and often also by her mother Veronica. Travers was not only a prodigal musician far beyond her years; she was considered a fine violinist, regardless of age or gender. She may have been a young girl in appearance, but she was an accomplished musician, and her performances were considered as good as those of concert violinists many times her age. There exists, in newspaper archives and elsewhere, a solid record of concert appearances from 1941 until late 1951, including at least 60 with symphony orchestras.

After that, Travers literally vanished. At some point in time, probably in early 1952, she decided to stop performing. The reason for this is unknown. No record exists of her marrying, and no record exists as to what she did thereafter. Her famous violin, the "Tom Taylor", was sold in 1954 to a benefactor who gave it to a California university. Other than that, there is no further newspaper activity about her, nor has there been a "whatever happened to" or "where is this person today" article. For the past 55 years, Travers has ceased to exist in the public eye, although her whereabouts are known. The best guess is that she took the route Greta Garbo and Deana Durbin did and simply decided to have no more to do with it."

Replies (24)

February 16, 2010 at 05:27 AM ·

A number of people know about the series of books called The Way They Play, by Applebaum. There are 14 volumes, and I'm glad to have them all, as they are collector's items, and contain a wealth of information. More rare is a kind of forerunner to volume one which I also have, called With the Artists, by Samuel and Sada Applebaum. It was published in 1955, but a lot of the interviews were conducted earlier. At the time, they probably didn't plan to take their interviews to any further volumes.

At any rate, when vol. I of The Way They Play came out, it contained much of the same material as With The Artists. But for some reason, a few  of the interviews were not carried over to vol I of The Way...These included an interview with Patricia Travers! (Another one not carried over was an interview with the noted teacher, Dounis!) The article mentions a 1737 del Gesu, as well as that Strad. According to that article, she was born December 5, 1927. The photo that they included of Travers, inscribed to the Applebaums is dated 1947. I just listened to that Youtube. Wow - what an intense, vibrant tone she had even as a youngster, and so expressive!

If there's anything else you'd like me to try to look for, let me know!

February 16, 2010 at 05:59 AM ·

That sounds like a great anthology, Raphael. I think the big question is, what happened to her? Why did she seemingly drop off the face of the earth?

February 16, 2010 at 07:15 AM ·

 I'd seen her some time ago on youtube... and asked the same question you do, Laurie.  I was planning to ask some folks I know who were alive at the time and "in the know"... hope to find something out!  Perhaps she just decided that the violin and fame wasn't what she wanted in life.... perhaps she had some personal tragedy that wasn't publicized.... I am sad to learn that she passed away.  There are few women players from older times and some of my female students, when seeing the old greats, ask me the names of women players.... too bad there isn't more of her playing on record.

February 16, 2010 at 12:57 PM ·

I understand. There's no hint in that early interview - she was only about 20 - that she had any plans for early retirement.

Maybe we could have a whole sub-section, or thread of "what ever happened to..." I heard that there is a similar mystery surrounding another violinist named Marvin Morgenstern. He seemed to just vanish one day. In a 'twilight-zone-y' mood this morning, I'm beginning to wonder if there aren't some musical aliens targeting and abducting fiddlers? ;-)

February 16, 2010 at 03:17 PM ·

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Date of Birth
15 December 1928, New Jersey, USA

Mini Biography

Patricia Travers was born in Clifton, New Jersey, the daughter of a well-to-do family. Her father, a successful attorney, was also an amateur violin maker, and he gave Patricia a 1/4 size violin on her third birthday. She was a quick study, and at age six, she gave her first concert. She became well-known locally, and her success earned her an appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 - at the age of nine. Her success spread nationwide after that, and it earned her several concert appearances.

In 1940, Paramount signed her to appear in the film "There's Magic in Music." The film itself achieved modest results, but it showcased her talents for millions to see and served as a springboard for her career. Travers was originally signed to simply perform a violin work (an arrangement of Anton Rubinstein's Romance in E flat), but the director found out that she was also a good actress, and her deadpan wisecracking upstaged even the established adults. As a result, she won acclaim from even the toughest critics.

Good actress or not, Travers was first and foremost a violinist, and her family turned down requests to appear in more movies. For the next eleven years, the petite, curly-haired young girl had a full schedule of concert appearances, performing as often as 100 times per year. To ensure that she got a reasonable education, she was accompanied by a private tutor, and often also by her mother Veronica. Travers was not only a prodigal musician far beyond her years; she was considered a fine violinist, regardless of age or gender. She may have been a young girl in appearance, but she was an accomplished musician, and her performances were considered as good as those of concert violinists many times her age. There exists, in newspaper archives and elsewhere, a solid record of concert appearances from 1941 until late 1951, including at least 60 with symphony orchestras.

After that, Travers literally vanished. At some point in time, probably in early 1952, she decided to stop performing. The reason for this is unknown. No record exists of her marrying, and no record exists as to what she did thereafter. Her famous violin, the "Tom Taylor", was sold in 1954 to a benefactor who gave it to a California university. Other than that, there is no further newspaper activity about her, nor has there been a "whatever happened to" or "where is this person today" article. For the past 55 years, Travers has ceased to exist in the public eye, although her whereabouts are known. The best guess is that she took the route Greta Garbo and Deana Durbin did and simply decided to have no more to do with it.

IMDb Mini Biography By: Tom Barrister

Trivia

At one time owned the "Tom Taylor" a guitar-shaped Stradivarius violin.

No relation to contemporary musician Pat Travers.

Owned two violins: the Tom Taylor Stradivarius, and the Guarnerius Ex-Consolo (Ex-Partello). The former was also used by Jacques Gardon, Joshua Bell, and recently, Mark Steinberg. The latter is the violin she plays in the movie "There's Magic in Music", and it was also used by Bronislaw Huberman.


Where Are They Now

(August 2007) Living in New Jersey.

February 16, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

Here is an Obituary:

 

I Hope to meet you in the resurection Ms. Travers.-Royce

 

 

TRAVERS Patricia, 82, of Clifton, NJ, dies on February 9, 2010.Miss Travers, a lifelong Clifton resident and concert violinist, made her first public appearance at Music Mountain, CT, at the age of six. She debuted professionally over CBS Radio on "The Ford Sunday Evening Hour" at the age of nine. A few years later, she appeared in Paramount Picture's "There's Magic in Music" starring Allan Jones.After World War II and during the occupation of West Germany, Miss Travers was part of the Cultural Exchange Program and toured West Germany under the direction of the United States Military Government.Throughout her career she was a soloist with major symphony orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and in Europe with the Berlin Philharmonic. She had many tours of the United States and Canada and also performed in London and Japan.In recent years, Miss Travers managed real estate investment property in the Allwood section of Clifton. She was a parishioner of St. Paul Church, Clifton, and a member of Local #204-373 of the American Federation of Musicians.Miss Travers was predeceased by her parents, Samuel A. Travers and Veronica Quinlan Travers, also of Clifton.Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Funeral Mass on Saturday, February 20th, at 11:30 AM, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 15 North Avenue, Millbrook, NY. Interment will be at St. Joseph Church Cemetery, where Miss Travers will join her late mother and father. There will be no visitation prior to the funeral mass.

March 7, 2010 at 01:33 PM · "Child prodigism is often a fatal disease" - Jascha Heifetz

Someone just sent this article to me!

Patricia Travers, Violinist Who Vanished, Dies at 82

 

Published: March 6, 2010

At 11, the violinist Patricia Travers made her first solo appearance with the New York Philharmonic, playing Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole” with “a purity of tone, breadth of line and immersion in her task,” as a critic for The New York Times wrote in 1939.

 
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The New York Times

Patricia Travers, shown in 1946, stopped performing in public by the early 1950s, giving no notice and never explaining why.

 

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At 13, she appeared in “There’s Magic in Music,” a Hollywood comedy set in a music camp. Released in 1941 and starring Allan Jones, the film features Patricia, chosen by audition from hundreds of child performers, playing with passionate intensity.

In her early 20s, for the Columbia label, she made the first complete recording of Charles Ives’s Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano, a modern American work requiring a mature musical intelligence.

Not long afterward, she disappeared.

Between the ages of 10 and 23, Ms. Travers appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York, London and Berlin Philharmonics and the Boston and Chicago Symphonies. She performed on national radio broadcasts, gave premieres of music written expressly for her and made several well-received records.

Then ... nothing, a six-decade-long silence that lasted from the early 1950s until Ms. Travers’s death on Feb. 9 at 82. Her death, of cancer, in a Montclair, N.J., nursing home, was confirmed by her lawyer, John Sullivan. Ms. Travers, who never married, leaves no immediate survivors.

Ms. Travers disappeared by hiding in plain sight, living quietly with her parents in the house in Clifton, N.J., in which she had grown up. She remained there till well past middle age, through the death of her father in the 1980s and her mother in 1995. Afterward, she moved to a condominium nearby.

By all accounts, Ms. Travers rarely spoke of her career. As her obituary last month in The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported, neighbors knew her only as the reserved owner and manager of a commercial property in Clifton she had inherited from her parents.

Why Ms. Travers gave up the violin will never be fully known. But it is possible to make an educated guess, based on old newspaper accounts of her career (reading between the lines), and on the work of contemporary psychologists who study gifted children.

As psychologists have found, a prodigy’s life is defined by a particular narrative arc — one that often ends, as Ms. Travers’s did, with early promise unfulfilled.

“Prodigies are much less likely to go on to become major famous creative geniuses than they are to become unheard-of and drop out,” Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “What it takes to become a prodigy is very different from what it takes to become a major creative adult.” She added, “Most do not make that leap.”

An only child, Patricia Travers was born in Clifton on Dec. 5, 1927. (The year is often given erroneously as 1928; it was common then for prodigies to be billed as younger than they really were.) Her father, Samuel, was a lawyer, semiprofessional singer and accomplished violin maker. Her mother, the former Veronica Quinlan, is described in some accounts as having been an amateur pianist.

Patricia began violin lessons at 3 1/2, eventually studying with the violinists Jacques Gordon and Hans Letz. At 6, she gave her first public concert, at Music Mountain, the summer chamber music festival in Falls Village, Conn. At 10, she performed on national radio with the Detroit Symphony under John Barbirolli.

At 11, Patricia was already playing a violin made by Guarneri del Gesù; before she was out of her teens, she also had a Stradivarius.

One of the few people alive who performed with Ms. Travers then is Lorin Maazel, who stepped down last year as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Maazel, who turned 80 on Saturday, led the Pittsburgh Symphony several times as a child conductor, with Ms. Travers as the child soloist.

“Patricia was a soulful artist, mature and poised,” Mr. Maazel wrote from Europe in a recent e-mail message. “One didn’t think of her as a child prodigy.”

If the young Ms. Travers was “reticent and somewhat withdrawn,” as Mr. Maazel recalled, onstage she came alive with a fire that drew praise from most critics. Writing in 1939, when she was 11, the journal Violins and Violinists rhapsodized, “We feel sure that the prophecy that Patricia Travers is to become known as one of the great women violinists will be fully realized.”

But with such prophecies comes great pressure, and many prodigies eventually undergo a psychological crisis. “It hits at adolescence,” said Professor Winner, the author of “Gifted Children: Myths and Realities” (Basic Books, 1996). “That’s when they say: ‘Who am I doing this for? My parents or me?’ ”

At that point, prodigies often stop playing. Ms. Travers, however, appeared to make it through her teenage years. She became a specialist in modern American music at a time when few performers gave it much thought. She recorded work by Ives, Roger Sessions and Norman Dello Joio. In 1947, at Carnegie Hall, she gave the premiere of “Incantation and Dance,” written for her by the Hawaiian-born composer Dai-Keong Lee.

But when she was in her early 20s, her notices, once glowing, grew more measured. In 1951 The Christian Science Monitor reviewed a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto by Ms. Travers, then 23, with the Boston Symphony:

“Miss Travers at present appears to be in an intermediate position between two extremes,” the review said. “On the one hand her foundational studies are well in the past; she is obviously a professional who is competing very well among her peers. On the other hand she is not yet either a brilliant technician nor a compelling interpreter.”

The Boston engagement appeared to have been her last with a major orchestra. “She gradually dropped from sight,” Mr. Maazel recalled. “Don’t know why. Probably, as happens in most early-career artists, she just lost motivation and perhaps went in quest of the proverbial lost childhood.”

Ms. Travers’s Strad and Guarneri passed to other hands long ago. At her death, she had just one violin left — not a valuable one, her lawyer, Mr. Sullivan, remembered her saying.

The only person for whom Ms. Travers seems to have played as she grew older, he said, was her mother.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the Guarneri family name as Guarnari.

March 7, 2010 at 11:11 PM ·

 Thanks so much for posting that article.  I'd never seen it.  So sad....

When I saw her play (on youtube), what struck me about her playing was not that she was young, but that she was fearless and mature.  Sounds like she lost her confidence.... but most sad to me isn't the playing... it's that it seems like she was alone for so much of her life, and to be old, alone, and sick is just too sad.

January 22, 2011 at 06:41 AM ·

 I wrote the biography on IMBD.  It's been copied to many places, some people of which have tried to pass it off as their own, including at least three people on YouTube.  I had her video on YouTube for a while.  I may put it back.    Meanwhile, here's the URL of the video.  It's from "There's Magic in Music":

http://www.br52.com/tmim/travers.wmv

For the record, Travers is playing her Guarneri del Gesu in the movie, not the Tom Taylor.

I corresponded with Ms. Travers in 2007, sending her a DVD of the movie and a brief newsletter about the various "kids" she'd worked with in the orchestra.  Most of them were from the Peter Meremblum California Junior Symphony, a popular training orchestra of the 1930's and 1940's.  

Some of the following was told in her letters, other bits are what I found out from newspapers and other sources.

According to Ms. Travers, she had long planned on cutting back her concert schedule.  At some point in time in 1951, she realized that her peers had caught up to her. There were a lot of fine violinists her age, and of course the great masters (Milstein, Heifetz, Menuhin, Francesscatti, Stern, Oistrakh, etc.).   There was no "little girl" gimmick anymore.  Also, she had grown tired of concertizing, which she had been doing virtually nonstop for the previous 12 years.  At that point, she decided to stop, at least for a year or two.  She honored her remaining commitments and accepted no more.  One of her last concerts was at Lethbridge in Alberta Canada, in November of 1951.  

Travers went home to her parents house and helped them with their vast business interests.  In her words, they "played the real estate game" for years.  She lived with her parents in their house until her mother Veronica passed away in 1995 (her father Samuel died in 1981).  At that point she moved into a modest condominium on Collura Drive.  She took with her the entire collection of glass figurines that she'd collected over the years.

In 1954, Travers decided that she wasn't returning to the concert stage.  At that point, she sold the Tom Taylor and the Guarneri del Gesu.  The former was sold to a benefactor who loaned it to Cal State Northridge, where it remained until it was sold to the Stradiveri Society of Chicago in 1986.  It was on loan to Joshua Bell, who eventually bought it.  It's now owned by Mark Steinberg of the Brentano String Quartet.

I spoke in recent years with more than a few of the (in 1940) kids of the Meremblum Orchestra and a few others who had worked with Travers either in the movie or in some other capacity.  Most  described her as a very nice person, but a bit eccentric.  One put it bluntly: "She was a very odd little girl.  Intelligent, a brilliant musician... but just...well... odd."  

One man who had known her for many years told me that she was a very private person, and that the years of concertizing had made her value her privacy even more.  She refused all interviews, and she wouldn't discuss her career, why she quit seemingly abruptly, or if she ever planned on returning.  Of course, she never did return, and reportedly never played the violin again except for her parents (It should be noted that her father was an amateur musician/violinist and also an amateur crafter of violins).  As noted, she basically remained in her childhood home for the remainder of her mother's life, managing their business affairs.  She never married, and according to the man, she never really had a serious love interest, at least that he knew of.  When I asked him about the appraisal by the others as to her being eccentric, he replied: "I can see their point of view, but it's really just Pat being Pat.  She always did things her way and never really cared what others thought about that."

While the movie is the only known video of Travers, she did make a few recordings, particularly of Charles Ives, and she played the World Premiere of one of his violin sonatas.  I haven't heard any of these recordings, and I imagine they'd be hard to find.

January 22, 2011 at 04:17 PM ·

"She always did things her way and never really cared what others thought about that."

:) Good for her.

 

"While the movie is the only known video of Travers, she did make a few recordings, particularly of Charles Ives, and she played the World Premiere of one of his violin sonatas."

Now that's interesting! I checked around a bit. Travers was born too late to make the premiere of any of the sonatas, but she did make the first complete recording of the 2nd sonata for Columbia in 1951. If you google "Travers Ives violin sonata" there's a letter that shows that Ives had his royalties from the recording redirected to her, so he must have thought highly of her performance.

Thanks for sharing.

 

January 22, 2011 at 04:45 PM ·

That is a fantastic article Raphael, thanks for sharing!

January 24, 2011 at 01:41 AM ·

Hm.  So would you consider her life successful?  Or not?  A classic case of burn-out?  Pushed too hard by parents with their self-interests being a priority?

This is something I've been wondering about.  I think it's a great idea to expose our children to different things...to give them lessons and have them gain some expertise in some interest they've been exposed to.  Most children also need a push to 'stay' in an activity - so that parental involvement is required when they're young.

But when do we stop?  What's considered a success?

 

 

January 24, 2011 at 02:21 AM ·

i read the entire thread with great interest since i remember seeing a video clip of her playing in a movie setting.  tom barrister, who has actually done due diligence on the subject,  did not mention the word "prodigy".   thank you mr barrister for the interesting findings and responsible writing.

January 24, 2011 at 06:25 AM ·

 "Hm.  So would you consider her life successful?  Or not?  A classic case of burn-out?  Pushed too hard by parents with their self-interests being a priority?"

 

It depends on your definition of success.  Her parents owned considerable real estate and other holdings.  At the time of her death, she still owned many properties. I highly doubt she had any financial worries, and that was probably true 60 years ago when she retired.  

 

The following is speculation, based on my letters and on conversations with various people.

 

Here is a 23 year old (in 1951) young woman who had been concertizing almost nonstop from 1940 (when she was 12).  According to the people I spoke to, Ms. Travers was a withdrawn, reserved person.  From sources, her mother Veronica, who was (from accounts) a very open and outgoing person, accompanied her on all of the various tours and probably did most of the socializing.  A reserved little (in stature, I'd guess her to be under 5'0" tall, or about 150 cm) girl/young-lady,  who probably would have been happy living a quiet life at home, was thrust on stage night after night to perform to audiences.  This went on for over 11 years.  Towards the end of her career, her performances may well have lost some of the brilliance that had been there earlier.

 

So she wakes up sometime in 1951 and realizes that she's 23 years old and that many of her peers have caught up to her. She knows that the prodigy niche is gone and that she now has to compete with not only violinists her age (Camilla Wicks, Michael Rabin, etc.) but also all the masters (Heifetz, Stern, Milstein, Oistrakh, etc.).   She's just received a couple of mediocre reviews from big city critics.  She doesn't decide with finality that she wants to quit cold (I deduce this from the fact that she didn't sell her two prized violins until 1954); more likely, she decides to take a break for a year or two.  She fulfills all of her concert engagements (ending sometime in November of 1951) and accepts no more.  At this point in time, there were many many top-rate concert violinists: Arthur Grumiax, Wicks, Rabin, Carol Glenn, Dorotha Powers, Franscescatti, Gerhard Kander, Elman, Ossie Renardy, Ricardo Odnoposoff, Spivakovsky, Syzmon Goldberg,Nyfrah Neaman, Erika Morini, Leonid Kogman, Tascha Seidel, and many more, plus the masters: Elman, Menuhin, Heifetz, Stern, Oistrakh, etc.  Nobody took much notice of her leaving.

 

She goes home to live in the same house she grew up in (although she saw little of that house from 1940 to 1951).  It's like her second childhood.  She can low come home to that house every day and sleep in her room every night.   An only child, she has a strong bond with her parents.  She becomes so attached to this lifestyle that she was more or less denied as a child, that she doesn't want to move out.

 

Her parents (likely her father) teach her about business. She helps them with their business affairs.  Some time in 1954, she decides to abandon any possibility of a career in violin.  Why bother with the grueling schedule, when she can live at home with her beloved family, help them with their business affairs (which were considerable), and be at peace with herself?  Why subject herself to the public scrutiny that she demonstrated (in later years) that she wanted no part of?   She didn't need the money.  She had nothing to prove.  Her parents weren't terribly young: they were in their mid to late 50's in 1954.  They could use her relatively youthful energy.  So she sold her two valuable violins and was done with it.  According to sources, she never played again except for them.

 

It's a fact that she never married, and the surmise of a man who knew her and her family well that she never had a serious love interest.  Perhaps this was because she was a bit eccentric.  Perhaps she discouraged such because she didn't want to leave her parents or didn't want to lead the safe, quiet, assured existence of her childhood home.

 

Then as her parents aged, she probably felt a responsibility to care for them as they cared for her.  She probably took over more and more of the work end of their business dealings herself.  She stayed in that house long after her father died (in 1981) and undoubtedly cared for her mother until the latter's passing in 1995.  After that, and now in her late 60's, the memories of that house, with both of her parents gone, may have been too much for her.  She moved into a small, comfortable upscale condominium where she spent the remainder of her life, continuing to run whatever properties she still owned (i.e. hadn't sold).

 

Certainly at some point or points in the 60 years from her retirement to her passing, curious reporters or researchers approached her, wanting to know some variant of "Whatever happened to Patricia Travers."   Any who so approached were rebuffed.  Had I not arrived via snail mail, bearing gifts (a copy of the movie she was in, and a short newsletter about what happened to the then "kids" she had worked with), she may have never answered my first letter, either.  Her replies were brief and to the point.  She said she left music to help her parents with their business affairs, and specifically "The three of us (her and her parents) played the real estate game for years".  There were a few more odds and ends in subsequent correspondance, but they basically point to what I've speculated.

 

So was she a success?  She certainly left a trail of successful concerts behind her.  Almost every newspaper article I found from 1938 until 1951 raved about her.  She was very likely a wealthy woman.  She lived what was probably a contented, quiet life, away from the magnifying glass of the public, which may well have been exactly what she wanted.  She did pretty much as she pleased and perhaps lived life on her own terms, even if said terms meant remaining in the same house she grew up in until she was a senior citizen and foresaking raising her own family until it was too late to do so. 

 

However, much of this is speculation on my part.  Reality could have been much different, and some of the scenarios probably should be left unexplored.

 

As I said, it depends on how one defines "success".  She certainly could have lived her life differently if she so chose.  Whether that would have made her more or less "successful" would seem to be at best arbitrary.

 

January 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM ·

 "However, much of this is speculation on my part.  Reality could have been much different, and some of the scenarios probably should be left unexplored."  classy.

on the other hand,  it is tempting to fill stories with holes with our own brand of mac and cheese:)

January 24, 2011 at 12:28 PM ·

Tom,

Thanks for the amazing info and the video clip.  I find myself strongly drawn to this person and story.  I played the violin as a child and was quite good but not even excellent let alone at her stratespheric level.  What confidence and expression.  If one just listens to the playing there is no way you could imagine a 10 yr old girl.....

I felt a personal connection with that girl in the movie that was both strongly engaging - and yet somehow deeply sad.  I'm not sure what it means but it is going to take some thought.  Perhaps it was a sense of isolation even in the child - and maybe that was the cause of the eventual withdrawal.  Maybe I was just as 'odd' as she was....

Food for thought for sure...

January 24, 2011 at 12:47 PM ·

The video embedded in the initial post can no longer be viewed. An on-screen message from YouTube reads: 

"This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement."

I didn't get a chance to see it :-(

January 24, 2011 at 02:43 PM ·

I'm pretty sure its the same one thats at the download link provided by Tom above - from the movie.  I have it from there.  Its amazing - maybe best to listen without the video first and imagine the player.....

January 24, 2011 at 03:41 PM ·

 I uploaded the video clip  to YouTube again.  You can find it here:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI1aXFk_eok

January 24, 2011 at 04:21 PM ·

 I'm not really too keen on the idea of a "successful life." Too many definitions. It's like saying someone had a "good life." What would that be? However we can always look at someone else's story and ask questions about it that reflect onto our own lives - i.e., what would I personally have done differently?, or what would I personally have done the same?, realizing that everyone comes to the table with different answers to those questions, and resisting the fatal temptation to generalize. I think that might be a more productive way of looking at things. However, we can all agree that her professional successes, even if they occurred early in her life, and even if she wasn't tremendously enthusiastic about the lifestyle to necessitate them, deserves to be documented and celebrated as great artistic triumphs.

"It's a fact that she never married, and the surmise of a man who knew her and her family well that she never had a serious love interest."

I just wanted to throw it out there that that doesn't necessarily mean that she repressed herself or led a tortured life (not saying that you're saying that, but I know some people could easily come to that conclusion). Some people are believed to be asexuals (google AVEN, for example), who can live their entire lives quite happily without a romantic attachment. I'm not by any means saying that she was one, but rather that this fact can't be used as evidence that she did or did not have a good life, or that her early career ruined her social life, or whatever.

January 24, 2011 at 06:14 PM ·

Tom, many thanks for re-posting the video, and also for drawing attention to the wmv version that I had overlooked. 

January 24, 2011 at 06:30 PM ·

 i enjoy reading emily's nice posting,,,makes a lot of sense.  

tom's initial finding has provided some reliable, yet sketchy details and insights.  it almost sounded like she had made a "business" decision, in face of competition, to back away from competitive concertizing.  to many that may be odd - -odd behavior, odd thinking--but that is something she ended up doing.

was she forced by someone or some force to choose that route? we don't know.  it is not impossible for someone later in life to continue to reflect the past in a way to be self serving psychologically and practically.  some people may lose a child and remember it differently from the fact.  it is a way to cope and live on.

reportedly when heifetz  blazed into the scene, many other performers had issues with their own performances.  when tiger woods turned prof, many profs needed to consult psychiatrists.    it can be unsettling or paralyzing.   

ideally, we tend to wish someone talented to have a long career and deem that to be a success. however, if we look into the lives of many well known musicians and composers of the past, their musical "success" was often met with sizable personal sufferings and failures.  

when the music is great, we tend to glorify the musical aspect and overlook the historical and personal context.  we love mozart's music, but we are perfectly happy that he might be a little childlike.  or even consider his childlike nature being the source of his genius.  

January 24, 2011 at 06:51 PM ·

*shrug*  You can only make someone do something they don't really want to do for so long.  That "why am I doing this?" question that hits prodigies is behind most of the disappearances, I think.  She just didn't want to, and instead decided to live the live she did want.  I'd call that a pretty decent way to spend one's time on this Earth.  If people want to do something and no nonnegotiable obstacles are in their way, they will do it -- and if they don't, they can only be driven to do it for so long.

It's not uncommon even for some extremely high-achieving adults to drop out of that type of very demanding artistic life completely, never marry, and remain intensely private.  There are a few I can think of even today who I'd kill to see live but who are likely at the stick-a-fork-in-them stage.

January 24, 2011 at 08:05 PM ·

 Here is a set picture of "There's Magic in Music" (aka "The Hard-Boiled Canary"); it is, in fact, from filming, just before the kids start marching/playing a Sousa work.

 

http://www.br52.com/tmimcast.jpg

 

"Me" is Shirley Cornell, who was the main source for my information about the Meremblum Orchestra, and the arrow and caption were added by her.  I added the rest.

 

Heimo Haitto was a Finnish child prodigy violinist who was sent to America when WWII broke out.  This movie is the only known video of him.  Haitto led what others have called a "Bohemian lifestye".  In Shirley's words, he was wild.  In trouble with the law at various points during the 50's, he finally returned to (or was deported to... different sources have different opinions) Finland in the early 1960's

 

The move was supposed to be a springboard for Kaye Connor's career. Kaye had been a standin for Jane Withers for a few years.  She didn't get the needed push from the movie (more on that later).  She went on to pursue a career on stage as a coloratura soprano, married singer George Britton, and ended up leaving the stage in the early 1950's for a business career, eventually running her own travel agency.  I haven't spoken to her in five years.  As far as I know, Mrs. Britton is still alive and well.

 

Edwina Pierce-Johnson is, at age 83, still a member of the Long Beach Symphony.  There's a short video of her on their website.

 

Off camera were the other two kids who had major parts in the film.  William Chapman, a 17 year old baritone, and Dolly Loehr, a cute little pianist in the Meremblum Orchestra.  More on her later.

 

The movie was shot at Lake Arrowhead in California, and it was supposed to be similar to what Interlochen looked like, or what the writers thought the public would accept that Interlochen looked like.  100 or so kids from the L.A. area, mostly musicians, were hired for the picture and were housed in the cabins.  According to Shirley, all of the kids except the contract players (Travers, Chapman, Haitto, and Connor) were sent home about halfway through their scheduled stay.  The official reason was that some of the kids had broken the rules by going swimming, unsupervised, before breakfast.  In reality, the film was already over budget and strapped for cash, and the rule-breaking was just an excuse to get rid of the lot of them.

 

One non-contract player who wasn't released was pianist Dolly Loehr.  The fetching  Ms. Loehr was perceived to be so appealing to boys her age that she was kept on until the end of filming and given a prominent role in the movie. It ended up being the launching pad for her career.  You may have heard of her under her screen name; she was ingenue Diana Lynn. I could write several paragraphs about her all-too-short life, but all of that is well documented elsewhere.

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